New Twist for 18s Tournament at Eddie Herr International
by Colette Lewis
, 24 November 2011
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Once again over 1000 junior tennis players will descend on the IMG/Bollettieri Academy for the Eddie Herr International tournament, but the 128 competitors in the Grade 1 ITF event will head for a different part of the sprawling campus in Bradenton, Fla.
With the USTA moving the Grade A Orange Bowl to the clay courts of Plantation's Veltri Tennis Center this year, the desire for consistency in the back-to-back events has put the Eddie Herr 18s tournament on clay for the first time.
Defending champion Dominic Thiem is probably just fine with that change, as the 18-year-old Austrian, 9th in the ITF world junior rankings, reached the final of Roland Garros this year. Thiem also had an excellent showing recently in a Futures event, reaching the final of a $10,000 tournament in Turkey.
Wimbledon boys finalist Liam Broady of Great Britain has maintained a Top 10 ITF junior ranking while reaching 657 on the ATP computers. The 17-year-old lefthander was a finalist in the 12s division at the Eddie Herr in 2006.
Mitchell Krueger, who beat Broady for that 12s title, will be the highest seeded American. The 17-year-old Texan, who recently signed a National Letter of Intent with Texas A&M, won the ITF B1 Pan American Closed last month.
Robin Kern, a hard-hitting German who reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and won the US Open boys doubles title this year, is a contender, as is US Open semifinalist Kyle Edmund of Great Britain. Sixteen-year-old Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan reached the final of the Birmingham, Ala. Futures on the same green clay surface in October, and has won three titles on the ITF junior circuit this year.
Alexios Halebian, the reigning USTA Clay Court 18s champion, has enjoyed great success on the Har-Tru surface, and the 17-year-old Californian, who won the Eddie Herr 14s title in 2008, reached the quarterfinals of the US Open junior championships this year.
Other Americans in the boys draw include Connor Farren, William Kwok, and Trey Strobel, winner of this week's Bollettieri wild card tourney.
Lauren Davis, the 2010 girls champion, is not defending her title, but the United States has an accomplished group aiming to retain the winner's trophy.
Fifteen-year-old Vicky Duval, who trains at the Bollettieri Academy and reached the quarterfinals in the 18s last year, made it to the final eight at both Wimbledon and the US Open juniors this year. Fourteen-year-old Gabby Andrews, the 2011 USTA Clay Court 18s champion, 16-year-old Allie Kiick, the 2010 16s Orange Bowl champion, and 15-year-old Taylor Townsend, the 2011 Pan American Closed champion, are also serious contenders for the title. Yulia Putintseva
of Russia, the 2010 finalist, is back for another crack at the championship, and ITF World No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard
of Canada, who won the 16s title
in 2008, is looking for a rare second Eddie Herr title. Both sport impressive WTA rankings, with Bouchard's at 302 and Putintseva's at 242. Another contender is Ukraine's Elizaveta Ianchuk
, who has played no junior events since March but has a WTA ranking of 362.
Unlike the boys field, which features few Americans, the girls field features more than a dozen, even before the wild cards have been distributed.
Christina Makarova, Stephanie Nauta, Kyle McPhillips, 2010 16s champion Samantha Crawford, Chalena Scholl, Kelsey Laurente, Jennifer Brady, Catherine Harrison and Jamie Loeb all received entry based on their rankings. Add Krista Hardebeck, Julia Elbaba, Blair Shankle and Tristan Dewar, currently listed in the qualifying draw, and you have the makings of an exceptionally strong group.